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This is what Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota did during a come-from-behind playoff victory at Kansas City on Saturday:
– He gunned a bull’s eye to wide receiver Eric Decker for the winning score.
– Mariota threw an impressive block on linebacker Frank Zombo, the former Sterling Heights Stevenson High and Central Michigan University standout, for running back Derrick Henry. It resulted in a key first down while protecting the lead. Mariota, as you’d expect, was mobbed by teammates. Forever, the Titans will run through a brick wall for this guy.
Meanwhile, far away in Michigan, there were undoubtedly a number of Lions’ fans pointing to the TV and wondering, “Hey, why can’t Matthew Stafford do that?”
Mariota, in just his third season, has an epic playoff victory – a rally from an 18-point deficit – under his belt.
Stafford has nine years in the NFL and has yet to lead the Lions to a postseason win. And, as if you don’t know it, Stafford is the highest-paid player in NFL history.
It was more cannon fodder for Stafford’s detractors, but is it fair?
It gets back to the question: Is it Stafford or the Lions overall.
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It does seem unfair to Stafford in this instance. The Titans have done many things right for Mariota, which frankly, the Lions have not for Stafford. Henry is a 6-3, 247-pound power runner. They also have a tremendous offensive line, led by tackles Taylor Lewan from Michigan and Jack Conklin from Michigan State, each first-round draft picks.
Tennessee had the 13th-ranked defense in the NFL during 2017. The Lions were 27th. The Titans were 15th in rushing yards, the Lions last.
Also, famously, the Lions and Stafford (0-3 postseason) were victims of a classic officiating blunder during the 2014 playoffs when referee Pete Morelli picked up the flag on an obvious pass interference call. It wasn’t only what lost that game to the Cowboys, but it sure didn’t help.
Mariota and the Titans benefitted greatly from one of the worst officiated games in NFL playoff history. The questionable calls went their way.
In addition to Mariota’s heroics, this game turned as much on when the Chiefs lost their primary offensive threat, tight end Travis Kelce, to injury.
Time to cue the collective eye roll: “There you go, making excuses for Matthew Stafford…”
Such sentiment is understandable even if inequitable, especially when you throw in the fact Jacksonville’s much-maligned QB Blake Bortles now has a playoff victory, too
Think about it: Tim Tebow won a playoff cheap jerseys China game. Mark Sanchez won four, including two on the road. Count me among those in the Stafford “is a much, much better QB than Jay Cutler ever was camp,” but even Cutler has won a playoff game.
Or should it be, more accurately, been starting QB for a winning team during the playoffs? You know, like Rex Grossman – twice.
It is, to say the least, an albatross around Stafford’s neck, one which was just enhanced by Marcus Mariota.